Strategy

‘Kill the company’: Identify your weaknesses before your competitors do

Jaclyn Densley /

For many, implementing an innovation strategy, which requires changes within an organisation, means adding layers of new processes. Lisa Bodell, author of Kill the Company: End the Status Quo, Start an Innovation Revolution, argues that there are straightforward ways to make change without bogging down the organisation.

Bodell insists that whether an organisation is doing exceptionally well or struggling, now is the time to address weaknesses and issues so that innovation can begin. [email protected] spoke with Bodell recently about her approach to getting companies to face their vulnerabilities, why taking risks are essential and why small changes make all the difference.

 

[email protected]: You open your book, Kill the Company, with a group of people ferociously plotting to decimate their main competitor as they aim for market domination. But there’s a twist. We discover that this group is engaged in an exercise to help them look at their own company’s vulnerability. In fact, it was their own company they had torn apart. What is this exercise all about?

Lisa Bodell: Kill the Company is about having an out-of-company experience. It’s about examining your weaknesses so that you can make them your strengths. In most businesses each year, we do a SWOT analysis [to examine] our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Most people use it as a political construct to say where they are strong and [to say that] they are not really weak – they’re challenged. That doesn’t work. Kill the Company [allows you to] pretend that you are your number-one competitor.

You have three minutes: how will you put yourself out of business? Especially with executives, it gets their war mentality on. They are given permission to really look at what’s wrong, and then ideally, find out where they are really weak. What can you do about it? Who can you partner with?

Even better, how can you then turn that back onto your competitors? It’s just a neat way [to look] at what your weaknesses are, but you give it a gaming mentality.

[email protected]: Part of what you’re looking at is removing obstacles to innovation. What are some of the obstacles that you see?

Bodell: There are many. Inherently, a lot of people are averse to taking a risk, and they don’t realise it. Leaders say that they want their teams to take a risk, when they may be the biggest barrier to risk because they have so much on the line, [including] quarterly earnings.

Another thing is a lack of definition around how much risk you can take. If you can have leaders suddenly [becoming] open to more risk and defining it, they will operate less with handcuffs and more with guardrails and be willing to [make], not just incremental change, but really dramatic, disruptive change.

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